What was your first desires when you have started to practice Karate? To be only a student or to become a Champion?
I have started to train harder soon after watching that National Championship I have mentioned above, as for Shihan Florian , he was kidding asking me if I wanted to continue practising only body-building. My answer was that I preferred doing only Kumite, while Kata training less. I was eager to take part in the Championships, as for kuy / dan-test, that was of a smaller interest for me. The most important point for me was to be a good fighter, not only on the tatami, but also outside of it. Shihan smiled at me, and only in 3 months I was taking part in my fist Championship. That junior Championship was enought for me to understand that I like fighting full-contact, and it’s been 23 years that I have never stoped.
How soon have you started to win your first medals?
I won my first trophy at a national team Championship, about 5 months after I have started training, and it was a second place. In 1994 I was already the Junior Vice-Champion of Romania, in -70 kg.
Do you remember how went your fisrt championships? And what feelings did you have?
I was stressed several first years, as at the age of 15 I was only a begginer, and comparative to others I had to work luch harder on my physical condition, so that I could replace the lack of experience and the low technique level I had at that time.Nevertheless I was very determined as I knew that only hardwork can make me become a competitor. It was a time when I was working very hard during my trainings, without even having the idea that I can become what I wanted to be. Every competition for me was a step I had to pass succesfully, as I considered it important for my sports career. That’s why I was a little stressed, but I do think that I have managed to overcome them.
How many times did you win the title of the Romanian Champion?
I won the National Kumite Championship for 11 times, from 2000 to 2012, and once I was Kata Champion, this was in 2007. Since 1999 I was winning all the National Championships.
When did you take part in the European Championship for the first time? Did you manage to get a medal at once, or did it take more effort and time?
I took part at the European Championship for the first time in 1998, in Zaragoza, Spain. But the first medal I won was during my second European Championship, in 2000, in Villa Do Conde, Portugal, it was a bronze medal. Well, I could do it rather fast I think.
How many times did you have to t ry to win the European Championship?
Winning the fisrt place at the European Championship was more difficult. For years I was winning the 2nd and the 3rd places and for 4 years I was loosing my finals or semi-finals because of the Tameshiwari test. At that time I was not preparing Tameshiwari, as I was thinking that I can win the fight before it comes to Tameshiwari. So, for several times my opponets, knowing that they had a bigger number of planks, were using a more defensive technique, and the fights were frequently ending in equality.In 2008, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain I prepared the Tameshiwari part as well, I had more plaks than my opponents, and it was the time for them to fight. I won all the fights, and no Tameshiwari number was needed. It was my 8th medal at the European Championship, but my fist Gold medal. That moment was very important for me, and it motivated me to continue and go further.
In your fight carrer, how many times did you conquer the title of the European Champion, and how many times did you have other medals?
I am 3 times European Champion, twice in the middle-weight-80kg, and once at the Open Championship. I have 11 medals:
Villa do Conde, Portugal 2000 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Uzhgorod, Ucraine 2003 – 2nd place -80Kg;
Warsaw, Poland 2004 – 2nd place Open;
Varna, Bulgaria 2005 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Barcelona, Spain 2006 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Volos, Grecia 2007 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain 2008 – 1st place -80Kg;
Kiev, Ukraine 2009 – 1st place -80Kg;
Belgrad, Serbia 2010 – 1st place Open;
Paris, France 2013 – 3rd place Open;
Berlin, Germany 2015 – 3rd place -90Kg.
As I was feeling that European Championships was not enough for me, I have started taking part in other big competitions, sometimes I had great results, but the most important point is that I asquaired a lot of experience grace to the fighters from other continents:
2009 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 1st place;
2009 All American Open New York – 3rd place;
2010 All American Open New York – 6th place;
2011 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 1st place;
2012 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 2nd place;
2012 All American Open New York – 6th place;
2013 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 3rd place;
2015 Open de France Lyon – 1st place.
What was the most interesting and diffucult fight?
Frankly speaking I had several interesting in difficult fights, as a had about 300 fights in total. I can say that the final fight from the European Open Championship, Beograd in 2010 against Alejandro Navarro was interesting, the fight with Ewerton Texeira from the 10th World Championship in 2011 was also interesting. The final fight from the Romanian Championship in 2003, with Lucian Gogonel was a very interesting fight, as interesting as the fight with Andrews Nakanara in 2007, the 2 fights with Djema Belkhodja in 2009 and 2010, Zenjiyro Mori in 2015, the fights with Hiroyuki Kidachi in 2001 and 2005, the fight with Emil Kostov in 2002, Darmen Sadvokasov in 2012, Krzystof Habraszka in 2000 and 2004, Oleksandr Eryomenko in 2014, Iliy Karpenko in 2013 etc. It is very difficul to tell only about one fight, as each of them was difficult in it’s own way, and at that moment I had to do my best to have a sucessful appearance.I’m glad that I had the namely these fights, with these fighters as I consider them my friends, those people with whom I shared a lot of nice moments during my fight career.When you are fighting against a good fighter, and the fight is almost equal you have to show what you can do best. That’s good feeling, and that’s why you keep training all the time.
What have you earned from this trip?
I have only confirmed my thoughts about this world. The experience of taking part in such a competition,among the best fighters of the world, have only developend my trainings and further performance.From there on it was different taking part, even in the European Championship. Everything becomes easier, as it is the highest level.
Now you’re frequent guest in Japan, what are your goals of coming there, besides World Championships?
I took part in 3 World Champiobnships and 3 Wormd Open Championships. Each time I came very motivated and prepared, and each time I was feeling good in this atmosphere. From a Championship to another I was becoming more relaxed, and I learned to control my emotions,and focus better. The interaction with the Kyokushin Elite made me progress.In 2015 I have become Branch Chief, and today I’m taking part in junior Championships, as a coach of course.
The Japanese called you “The Romanian Iron Fist”, why and when have you received this nickname?
I’ve first noticed this, after several good performances at some Open Championships, and All American Open in particular. Being a middle-weight fighter, I was fighting against those who were much heavier than me, and I was never stepping back, so sometimes I won. In 2009 I was ranked on the 3 rd place at All American Open, and I suppose that my nickname came after this Championship. In general during the US Championships I was called „Ironman” or “The Rock”, and in Japan “The Romanian Iron Fist”.
Your fist black belt exam, where and when was it? Who was the examinator? Were you stressed?
I have passed my Shodan in october 2000, with Shihan Loek Hollander. For a sportsmen of the national team, a black belt examintation is an opportunitty to show what you are able to do. For me it was more like a training, while Kumite test was my favourite. It was very important for me to receive the black belt, as I didn’t was to become a coach muself, till I have a black belt and till I gradute the National Academy of Physical Education and Sports, which I did in 2001. In the same year I have started teaching. Before this year I was just teaching in my dojo, helping my Sensei.
How about your further black belt examination?
In 2004 I had my Nidan examination in Bucarest, 2011- my Sandan test as well in Romania. But this time during a summercamp lead by Shihan Shin Ito and Shiha Arthur Hovanessian. My Yondan test I have passed in Lublin, during Polish Summer Camp, where Shihan Katsushito Gorai and Shihan Francisco Filho were invited.
Today, do you consider yourself as being one of the strongest fighters from Romania, or there is somebody else?
I don’t know what to say, I prefer other people to express themselves on this subject. I can only analize the results that I have during my whole career. Among my 11 European medals, 3 of them are gold, from 6 time participating at the World Championships – twice I was ranked 6th and once 8th in the middle weight, I’m also 11 times National Champion. With such results, I think there is only one Romanian fighter that has more medals than I do, that’sa good friend of mine, Lucian Gogonel, who is 6 times European Champion, and World Lightweight Champion. Once I have won him and it wasn’t easy, but he has better results. Not to forget the fact that last year, at the age of 43 years, he was fighting among the best Adult fighters, and not in the Senior age group.
Of course, there have been other Romanian fighters who were higly ranked in the European Championships, but because of various causes, there never had that much time and dedication to this activity, so they have less medals. Often, good fighters, with great potential have to stop compiting for social reasons. To take part in such competitions, the fighters have to train a lot, while they are not payed for training. That’s why a lot of fighters had to find a job, that was not flexible for their training schedule. I had a short life period when all I was doing was training. During my sports carrer, I was always having another activity as well: I was always teaching karate, and I also had a full time job as the Security Shift Supervisor at the US Embassy from Bucarest, in 2003-2009. During these 6 years, I have won 6 European titles, disregarding the 40 hours of work per week, a part of them during the night shifts. Maybe If I had a sponsorwho could guarantee me a decent living, I would have had better results! On the other hand, the fact that I had to do something else helped me to develop as a person, and become what I am today! The experience I have gained is helping me a lot in my present life.
What are your coach results that you are proud of today?
I’m proud of my team of young Karateka, who have started this year with already 2 competitions, one in Budapest and another in Varna where thety have won 7 medals, 4 of which are gold. The older ones have taken part in the World and European Competitions, and I’m sure this is only the beggining. It is very important to have a lot of people in a team, so that they could compete even during the lessons.
Is there any student of yours who would like to become a coach?
Yes, some of them are already teaching, even if they are young enough. I’m managing several sportsmen, and together we’re developpig Kyokushin Karate in Romania. To my mind, it’s the only possibility to keep them closer. Moreover, it is good for the younger students, as they have the example of the oldest.
What is the “recepie of succes” for a fighter in your opinion?
The most important is for the fighter to have the dream of becoming a great champion, to be eyes-wide-open and to receive the information as needed. To develop, it is very important to be surrounded by hight level fighters, who are ready to work to obtain something. Of course, what is also very important is the correct training method, and strategy. Lifestyle, food, pshycological preparation, social life are also very important.
There are some moments when a person quits sports, and them comes back. Have you experienced such moments? If yes what motivates both?
Frankly speaking I have never quit sports, as I adore this activity. There have been moments, when there where people who tryed to stop me and other sportsmen from sports performance, but stubborn as I am, I didn’t quit because of the wrong management, it only determined me to continue. I was even more eager to train, when there was no one to support me. All I wanted was to win, so I was always finding my own motivation.
A lot of sportmen of your age don’t only stop compiting, moreover they quit sports, what motivates you to stay and continue?
The feeling that I have while being of the tatami watching my opponent, has probably created a dependance. I like this feeling, and it makes me feel strong, happy and fullfilled. It is worth all the job that was done!
What does becoming a Brach Chief mean to you?
Well it doesn’t make me feel a different person, as the thing that matters for me is the human quality. I’m trying to be correct, and not to bother the others with anything, everything has to be in harmony. Still, the fact that I have become a Branch Chief is very important, as it makes me more responsable and qualitative in everything I’m doing. Now I can discuss with the other Branch Chiefs and Honbu, and it allows me to make a good teamwork. This team proves me that thesucces of Kyokushinka Karate is due to their teamwork. I’m feeling very good being a part of this international family, and each trip for IKO events halps me gain some new experience.
Sensei we wish you and your students luck in the coming competitions, and thank you for telling us about your path in Kyokushin!
Thank you for the interview, and i’m glad we know eachother!